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Proceedings of the International Colloquium
from Trgu Mure

810 October 2010

Edited by
Sndor Berecki
Rita E. Nmeth
Botond Rezi

Editura MEGA
Trgu Mure


Preface....................................................................................................................................................................... 7
Aleksandar Kapuran
Relationship between Settlements and Necropoles of the Bronze Age in Eastern Serbia......................... 9
Horia Ciugudean
Mounds and Mountains: Burial Rituals in Early Bronze Age Transylvania............................................. 21
Sndor BERECKIldor Csaba Balzs
Discoveries belonging to the Schneckenberg Culture from incai, Transylvania.................................... 59
Tiberiu Ioan TECARMonica Voichia TECAR
A Unique Cult Object belonging to the Wietenberg Culture..................................................................... 77
Oliver Dietrich
Kinderspielzeug oder Kultobjekte? berlegungen zu anthropomorphen Figurinen
der Wietenberg- und Tei-Kultur..................................................................................................................... 87
Aspects of the Ritual Life of the Wietenberg Culture. Miniature Religious Shrines from Raco,
Transylvania.................................................................................................................................................... 107
Attila Lszl
Eine Kultstelle der Wietenberg-Kultur auf der Fvenyestet Anhhe bei Malna Bi
(Sdost-Siebenbrgen)?................................................................................................................................. 115
Laura Dietrich
Aschehgel der Noua-Kultur als Pltze von Arbeit und Fest................................................................ 131
Jens Notroff
Menace from the Afterlife? Some Remarks about the Archaeological Evidence for Fearing and
Banishing the Dead and a Contribution to Otomani and Fzesabony Sepulchral Rite........................ 143
Malvinka UrkLiviu Marta
Human Remains of the Late Bronze Age Settlements in the Upper Tisza Area. New Researches
and New Evidence.......................................................................................................................................... 155
Florin GogltanRita E. NmethEmese Apai
Eine rituelle Grube bei Vlaha, Gemeinde Svdisla (Kreis Cluj)............................................................. 163
About the so-called Hand Protectors of the Bronze Age......................................................................... 185

6 |

Tiberius BADER
Grossgrabhgel von Medieu Aurit/Aranyosmeggyes, Bez. Satu Mare, Rumnien.............................. 189
Carol Kacs
Die Hgelnekropole von Lpu. Eine zusammenfassende Einleitung.................................................... 213
Daria Lonjak Dizdar
Funerary Practices of Late Bronze Age Communities in Continental Croatia...................................... 245
Mihai WittenbergerMihai Rotea
Aspects of the Bronze Metallurgy in Transylvania..................................................................................... 261
Tudor soroceanu
Zweigeteilte Einheit oder geeinte Zweiheit? Zur Frage der Dualitt in den bronzezeitlichen
Deponierungen............................................................................................................................................... 269
Wojciech BLAJER
Zwischen dem Karpatenbecken und der Ostsee. Bemerkungen zu den besonderen Fundumstnden
der Bronzehorte in Polen............................................................................................................................... 295
Botond REZI
Voluntary Destruction and Fragmentation in Late Bronze Age Hoards
from Central Transylvania............................................................................................................................. 303
Gbor V. SZAB
Sptbronzezeitliche Bronzehortfunde im Siedlungskontext Neue Forschungsergebnisse
aus Ostungarn................................................................................................................................................. 335
Tobias MRTZ
At the Head of Concealment. The Deposition of Bronze Age Helmets in the Carpathian Basin........ 357
Abbreviations....................................................................................................................................................... 377

Menace from the Afterlife?

Some Remarks about the Archaeological Evidence for
Fearing and Banishing the Dead and a Contribution to
Otomani and Fzesabony Sepulchral Rite
Jens Notroff
Deutsches Archologisches Institut
Berlin, Germany

Keywords: deviant burial, secondary grave opening, burial ritual, amulet,

OtomaniFzesabony complex, Totenangst, Totenbann

Next to settlements and depositions, grave finds are the most important sources of information
in prehistoric archaeology. Grave customs and burial rites allow us to distinguish and define patterns of
funeral traditions which can be understood as culture-specific and indeed definitive aspects of human
behaviour. Graves which are seen as aberrations of these rules are mainly denoted as deviant burials
(Sonderbestattungen, special burials in the German terminology),1 a concept which is rather vague, since
there is no precise definition about what such a special burial actually is. This remark should not be understood as criticism since it is the conceptual ambiguity caused by the multifaceted character of these burials
themselves which makes it so difficult to define this term clearly or find binding criteria to describe it.
The concept of special burials covers a rather wide range of meaning and content. In anthropology, where the term was first used in the context of paleodemographical analysis, it means the absence of
certain demographic relevant sections of a population in burials, such as certain age groups or the numerical relation of sexes, etc. (Schwidetzky 1965). In cultural anthropology respectively ethnology the same
term is used to describe the sepulchral rite and the ceremonies connected to it in a very active meaning
while archaeology in contrast usually only is able to document the remaining material leftovers of these
actions (as far as these are preserved). Generally, in archaeology special or deviant burials mean all burials different from what is considered the normative in the funeral rite of a group, community or society.
This can be referring to the spatial situation of the dead and its grave, the grave construction itself, the
treatment of the deceased as well as conspicuous or unusual grave goods and contents. The impossibility
to cover the complete funeral behaviour of a prehistoric society is obvious. Too many traditions of diverse
relevance may have asked for a special treatment of certain individuals for different reasons; there seems
to be no chance trying to define consistent, universally valid features.
Totenangst and Totenbann
While the explanations and the appearances of special burials are various, their interpretation usually is surprisingly uniform (especially in Continental research tradition). Quite often these deviant burials
are explained rather monocausally and connected to a certain diffuse fear of the dead.2 For lack of a better
1 A more detailed discussion of the German-language and Anglophone research on this topic and the concepts behind both
terms can be found at Aspck 2008.
2. For an insight into the younger discussion on the connection between special burials and fear of the dead cf. Meyer-Orlac
1982 and 1997 as well as U. Veits remarks concerning her works (Veit 1988).

Bronze Age Rites and Rituals in the Carpathian Basin, 2011, p. 143153

144 | Jens Notroff

English catchphrase it seems suitable to introduce the German term Totenangst (meaning exactly this: fear
of the dead) and use it in the following. This assumed Totenangst is the reason why we are confronted with
the living dead, revenants and even vampires in the archaeological specialist literature (Kyll 1964, 175;
Wilke 1931). Again here lies a problematic vagueness in the meaning of this fear. Is it the fear of death and
knowledge of the own mortality? Is it the fear of anything dead in general or a specific dead individual in
particular? If so, does this mean people were afraid of hurtful actions by the dead out of their grave3 or of a
real carnal return of the deceased? Adapted from later written sources and against the background of historical tradition a number of peculiarities in the context of burials (as discussed in the following) are often
seen as protective measures against possibly harmful dead individuals.4 In contrast to the aforementioned
Totenangst, we may apply and use another German term here to describe this situation: Totenbann (meaning the banishment of the dead). Most of the graves showing these characteristics are seen as measures to
detain the deceased from a return in a very physical meaning. This is owed to the nature of these finds and
features. Among those we find bound and tied bodies, bodies burdened with stones and such in an unusual
position as well as separated and dislocated body parts.
An interpretation like this of course is a less subtle and most obvious one seen through the eyes
of our very modern understanding of deference. One should not wonder that there is disagreement and
criticism questioning explanation models like these (Meyer-Orlac 1997, 5f.; Schaub 2009). Maintaining
the examples given before, it is probable that bodies might have been tied for better and easier transport, stones might found there way into the graves for other reasons as part of the ritual, unusual positions may be connected to post-depositional processes in at least the one or other case and dislocated
body parts could hint at an earlier injury or be part of the burial rite (Schaub 2009, 610). Therefore the
term Sonderbestattung (special burial) should be preferred over deviant burial, since the first one itself
is value-free and more neutrally than the rather negative connotated latter term (cf. Aspck 2008, 29).
Appearances can be deceiving
The aim of this paper is not to deny that the special treatment of certain dead individuals might
have been caused by beliefs involving Totenangst and Totenbann. However, it is important to disengage
ourselves from postulating such interpretations based on the mere fact that a burial differs from what is
considered the normative ritual. Special treatment of the dead does not necessarily involve a negative
reason; it could also indicate an increased appreciation. If we could find other parameters supporting the
concept of defensive measures against such deceased individuals thought to be potentially dangerous this
would add to the interpretation of special burials.
To illustrate this point a number of selected examples of conspicuous burials from the Bronze Age
Carpathian Basin should be addressed, focussing at the area of north-eastern Hungary and Slovakia (Fig.1),
especially the OtomaniFzesabony cemeteries of GelejBeltelek and GelejKanlisdl (1), Herndkak
(2), Pusztasziksz (3), Streda nad Bodrogom (4), TarnamraUszoda (5), TiszafredMajoroshalom,
TiszarvnyTemetdomb (6) and the Late Bronze Age5 burials from Mezcst (7).6
The attempt to approach the topic of deviant burials in the Bronze Age material confronts us with
the in this case problematic introduction of cremation. Obviously this caused a large-scale change in burial customs and makes it even more difficult to address a differing treatment of the deceased. Especially in
these times following the increased appearance of cremation we are confronted with a side by side of inhumation and cremation burials; both that numerous that it seems a bit of a stress to denote them exceptions.7
While in the Middle Bronze Age cemetery of Gelej nearly exclusively crouched burials were documented
(Kemenczei 1979, 27), at other contemporary places, cremation burial was already adopted. The urn graves
3. According to popular belief, a revenant German: Nachzehrer from nach (afterwards) and zehren (feeding upon something
or somebody) would not leave his grave, but harm people (mostly own family members) from within it by exhausting their
vitality (for more information cf. Schrmann 1990).
4. A number of examples and analogies are listed in Trauwitz-Hellwig 1935 and Jankuhn Et Al. 1978.
5. Chronological terms used here are always referring to the common Hungarian chronology systems (for an overview cf. e.g.
Hnsel 1968).
6. The close relation of these burials at Mezcst and their connection to the nearby cemetery of Gelej in terms of burial ritual
and similarities in the treatment of the dead despite the chronological distance was pointed out by B. Hnsel and N. Kalicz
already (HnselKalicz 1986, 7173). Given that, including the features and finds from Mezcst was self-evident and only
consequent, especially in the view of the secondary grave openings there as well as in Gelej and other related sites.
7. This does, by the way, raise the question from what percentage on and to what number we would and should exemplify such
exceptional cases.

Menace from the Afterlife? | 145

at IgriciMatata (Hnsel 1968, 151ff.; HnselKalicz 1986, 6770) from the Middle Bronze Age, and
the not yet completely researched cremation cemetery at Biharszentjnos (Bna 1975, 121ff.; Bader 1998,
80 (annotation 15) may serve as examples. Among the burials at Mezcst, dating into the Late Bronze Age
and having a noticeable shorter phase of occupation than the aforementioned sites, only five8 of a total of 39
graves were cremations. The new custom was clearly evident here but statistically of subordinate relevance.
These cremation burials seem to belong to the earliest burial activity in Mezcst, chronologically interfering with the later phases of Igrici judging by the antiquated pottery in these graves (Hnsel 1968, 151ff.;
HnselKalicz 1986, 67). This would mean that after the introduction of cremation there was a recurrence
of the older tradition of inhumation burial again. What usually in the best case (with an accordingly large
enough number of both customs) would have been considered as a bi-ritual burial rite and in particular
cases (meaning an only low number of differing burials) as special burial turned out to be a dynamic, repetitive change in funeral behaviour.

Fig.1. Location of the OtomaniFzesabony cemeteries mentioned in the text.

This leads to the discussion of symbolic burials or cenotaphs (cf. e.g. Btora 1999) which were
found at GelejKanlisdl9 and GelejBeltelek10. Their interpretation has to be rethought in light of a parallel existence of inhumation and cremation burial customs. Often interpreted as substitutional graves for
individuals who could not be buried for certain reasons or seen as cultic vessel depositions within burial
grounds (Thomas 2008, 8285), there is another aspect to be taken into consideration. In Herndkak such
burials without any skeletal material11 contained nothing but ceramics and had few in common with the
majority of inhumation burials. But they did show a striking similarity with the number, shape and position of vessels enclosed to unurned cremation burials of contemporary sites such as TarnamraUszoda
and TiszarvnyTemetdomb as Schalk (1992, 37f.) pointed out. Also, Thomas (2008, 130f.) noted
that the cremation graves from the cemetery of Pusztasziksz just a few kilometres north of Gelej showed
a related scheme of integration into the zones of inhumation graves like the symbolic ones do there.
Together this should allow taking into consideration that we are confronted with unurned cremations in
this case, too probably not always recognizable because of unfavourable preservation circumstances.
8. Graves 21, 38, 80, 85, and 75 (HnselKalicz 1986, 2033).
9. Graves 24, 25, 54, 56, 67, 95, 97, 145, 149, 160, 175, 176, 195, 211, 212, 216 and 217 (Kemenczei 1979, 726).
10. Graves 32, 66 and 71 (Kemenczei 1979, 726).
11. Graves 14, 23, 24, 28, 29, 56, 101 and 124 (Schalk 1992, 37f.).

146 | Jens Notroff

Other explanatory models, such as multiple-stage burials or differing rites carried out by minorities with their own sepulchral behaviour, seem suitable for related features, especially in view of ethnographic parallels.12 Two case studies may illustrate this: The Dayak of Borneo, for instance, follow a twostep burial rite. After the unburned body is buried for a certain amount of time, the ritual demands an
exhumation and a new funeral of the discarnate bones. Since it is connected with extensive and expensive
feasting, this second step often is delayed and not uncommonly completely left undone (Miles 1965). It
is not hard to imagine how this would appear to be confusing in the archaeological record, when most of
the deceased are present in an accumulation of loose bones among very few completely preserved skeletons. Another unusual feature would be the burials of Vishnu and Shiva devotees in India, if it were not
for the written record to explain this conspicuous situation. Although part of one ethnicity both groups
differ in burial rites; one group practicing inhumation, the other cremation burial (Schlenther 1960).
Depending on the structure of population, one of these funeral types may dominate the archaeological
record making the other one appear extraordinary.
These examples demonstrate that a simple aberration from what is considered the norm in burial
practice because of numeral predominance does indeed not define a special burial. In contrast, a minority
of finds could lose their character as exception with progressing research and figures are about to adapt
from a different point of view.
Desecration of graves as part of the rite
From virtually all of the cemeteries mentioned above a number of burials are reported as either
missing certain body parts or only containing those (Kemenczei 1979, 2730; HnselKalicz 1986,
5052; Schalk 1992, 8184; Thomas 2008, 3639, 89), which has become a topos in the interpretations
of special burials as expression of Totenangst (e.g. Pauli 1975, 176; Olexa 2002, 89; Schaub 2009, 10f.).
In Gelej we know of such graves, where especially the bones of the lower extremities are missing13
or such with not more than a single skull or mandible.14 Other examples are known from Herndkak and
Mezcst.15 Apart from the possibility that this could reflect one or another earlier injury during lifetime
caused by an accident or brute force in some examples, the phenomenon of removed extremities is not
unknown but rather frequent in the OtomaniFzesabony culture (OShea 1996, 176ff.) and seems to be
part of the burial rite. Furthermore, the majority of these partial burials (but not all) were obviously disturbed the already existing graves were secondary opened (Pstor 1969, 82f.; HnselKalicz 1986,
50f.; Schalk 1992, 8184; Thomas 2008, 39). In GelejKanlisdl some graves exhibit signs of a secondary opening and manipulation as well: in grave 18 the skull was missing and the area of the pelvis was
disturbed (Kemenczei 1979, 8), in grave 106 the jaw was dislocated (Kemenczei 1979, 12) and in grave
137, again, the skull was disassembled while an additional skull was placed in the same grave (Kemenczei
1979, 15).
From the 30 burials of the bi-ritual cemetery of Pusztasziksz three disturbed graves are reported
(Kszegi 1968, 113), from Streda nad Bodrogom, also bi-ritual, 14 disturbed burials are known of a total
of 67 (Polla 1960, 327331). However, for both sites more recent damage must be considered (Thomas
2008, 122 and 156f.). From Herndkak there are a number of burials referred to as being found in a stirred
up state,16 but the vague sources make it difficult to address any details. We can only state that skull and
chest section apparently have been disturbed in these examples and that objects were taken out (Schalk
1992, 81f.).
Of the burials in Mezcst more than 50% were disturbed or partly disturbed (HnselKalicz
1986, 50) and the damage clearly reveals why these graves were opened: they show a complete lack of
metal objects, although small remaining rests serve witness of a more wealthy burial equipment in the first
place. Grave 66 from Mezcst, for instance, shows a secondary pit in the head area of the body buried
there. A headdress formerly located there (as a few remaining buttons and spirals attest), was removed,
while a collar and an arm bracelet were left untouched (HnselKalicz 1986, 31). A similar picture is
12. Of course, such analogies are not proving anything, but demonstrate a wide range of possible models. On the use and benefit
of ethnography in the archaeological interpretation cf. Ucko 1969 (especially p. 262f.), Fischer 1990 and Gramsch 2000.
13. Graves 13, 15 and 151 (Kemenczei 1979, 2729; Thomas 2008, 3639).
14. Graves 53, 131 and 150A (Kemenczei 1979; Thomas 2008).
15. Graves 45, 58, 6163 and (103) 104 from Herndkak (Schalk 1992, 81); graves 9, 10, 15, 25, 34, 36, 47, 66 and 86 from
Mezcst (HnselKalicz 1986, 1438).
16. Graves 43, 92, 110, 122 (Schalk 1992, 82).

Menace from the Afterlife? | 147

revealed in grave 47 from the same site. Again, the area of the head was disturbed, the head being dislocated. While a necklace was left at its place, yet again the headdress (from which only small remains were
present) was removed. Two more pits were directed at the arms, leaving nothing but a disarrangement of
bones and bronze fragments (HnselKalicz 1986, 27).
This well directed removal of grave goods while neighbouring areas of the same burial stay mostly
untouched is evidence for people acting here with a detailed knowledge of the grave and maybe even for
persons who were present at the burial itself. The question about the intentions behind this behaviour has
to come up. Was it all about the value of the material, thus indeed to be understood as grave robbery by
all means? Or are we confronted with a tolerated, even purposed mannerism here? The frequency of these
secondary grave openings as demonstrated in the examples above makes it a rather common practice. It
does not appear to be looting of graves in the meaning of grave robbery17 but more a rather regular element of the burial rite (Primas 1977, 106f.). The minimization of destruction inflicted upon the dead
body underlines this and indicates some degree of respect for the deceased. B. Hnsel and N. Kalicz
(1986, 52) suggested a sepulchral rite including the opening of graves and removing of grave goods based
on a belief that the dead individual was only allowed (or needing) to possess the given objects as long
as their own physicality was given; after the decomposition of the dead body the more valuable objects
returned into the property of the bereaved.18
Obviously, this did not apply to all grave goods, not even to all metal ones, since some were still left
behind in the graves. Thus, it is probable that the removal of objects was not the sole motivation to open
burials again. A comprehensive ritual with a more complex content has to be suspected behind this, most
likely connected to a cult of ancestor worship. Furthermore these objects removed from the graves and
therefore taken back from the dead could have been connected to another aspect of numinous nature, if
they were not to go back into the property of the living but offered to a higher force and withdrawn from
any profane use in this way. It was K.-F. Rittershofer (1987, 21) who noticed that numerous hoards
containing multiple elements of attire, so called Ausstattunsghorte (outfit / equipment hoards), are found
exactly in these cultural regions where the burials are manipulated and objects removed. The content
of these depositions seems to correspond with the missing (removed) objects in the graves,19 a thought
which also recalls H.-J. Hundts (1955, 107ff.) Totenschtze (treasures of the dead). Without going too
much into detail since this complex topic deserves and needs an analysis on its own going beyond the
frame of this paper, it is important to point out the depositions of the type Koszider and Tolnanmedi
(Bna 1958; Ruttkay 1983) and the objects of jewellery and attire accumulated there (especially pendants); items, also playing an important role in ritual activity concerning burial and beyond, as will be
discussed in the following.
Amulet and talisman
If the aberration from burial rite does not suffice to understand special deviant burials as
expression of Totenangst, it is necessary to explicate what other parameters may have to be taken into
account for such an interpretation. This is also important because of the apparent conflict between the
disturbance of burials brought up above be it a disrespectful act or intended part of the rite and the
often claimed fear of the dead.
As a result of this, the role of grave goods must be re-examined. Especially objects destroyed and
therewith made unusable could be interpreted as being disturbed motivated through the fear of the dead.
On one hand they satisfy the duty to equip the deceased for the afterlife, on the other hand they also prevent the real use of these items any longer. However, to think of this as a kind of banishment, Totenbann,
would also mean that a great many of dead individuals was put under the general suspicion of being a
potential revenant, considering the frequent appearance and distribution of this phenomenon.
17. For a more detailed survey on grave robbery in prehistoric times cf. Jankuhn Et Al. 1978 and Kmmel 2009. Secondary
grave openings are not unknown in Central and Eastern Europe starting on a widespread basis as early as the Chalcolithic (cf.
Bertemes 1989, 131f.).
18. Neugebauer (1991, 126f.) expresses doubts concerning the interpretation of secondary grave openings in this way. With
reference to the situation at the cemetery of Gemeinlebarn, Lower Austria, he speaks in favour of actual looting of the graves
for the material value of grave furnishings and points out the high degree of destruction done. Interestingly, he also mentions
a frequent disturbance of the skull area and he explains the removing of skulls from the graves with the fear of revenge by the
dead, which of course could be listed under Totenbann as discussed above.
19. For the correlation of hoard and grave finds and items of attire respectively jewellery in the Danube-Carpathian region cf.
especially Schumacher-Matthus 1985, 126ff. and 140ff.

148 | Jens Notroff

An alternative approach is more favourable. Burial furnishings usually can be divided into two
groups: attire as well as personal items from the deads property and additional equipment for the afterlife.
L. Pauli (1975, 11) suggested a third group of objects with amulet character.20 The term amulet is used
here to describe objects which have been assigned spiritual powers, providing salvation and even more
emphasized in the frame of this paper protection and defence.21 Objects understood in this way could
have been of different nature and shape. They may have found their way into the grave as part of the personal dress in life and it is likely that a supposed protective character of these objects in a lifetime was also
exceeded into the afterlife. In regard to L. Paulis thoughts on this topic, the question at hand is whether
grave goods interpreted in means of amulets have to be expanded in their meaning to another facet: what
if at least some of them were used as a spiritual defence mechanism, not to protect the dead from dangers
in the other world, but to guard the living descendants from possibly harmful deceased relatives and actually banish them right there in the grave (Pauli 1975, 171)?
Is it possible to apply this concept also to the Bronze Age burials introduced and discussed above?
If so, where among the material could such thoughts best be based? When in many cases a large number of
needles and buttons were reported found concentrated in the head area of these burials (HnselKalicz
1986, 56; Schalk 1992, 68f.; Thomas 2008, 75f.), the suggested interpretation of a garment or cloth originally covering the head or whole body is convincing, leaving these objects rather unlikely amulets.
A stronger approach suggests that such pendants were made of animal teeth, of which we know
examples from grave 111 in Herndkak where three worked boar tusks were found lying close to each
other (Schalk 1992, 72f.) and grave 13 from Streda nad Bodrogom where two perforated wolf (?) teeth
were found (Polla 1960, 337). The finds of boar tusks have several analogies in their wider vicinity and
especially among the grave finds of the Kotany culture in the eastern Slovakian Koice basin (Schalk
1992, Abb. 25 and 26). Comparatively, the finds from Streda nad Bodrogom are unknown in other
Fzesabony cemeteries but find parallels in the younger burials from TiszafredMajoroshalom (Kovcs
1975, Taf.27). In Mezcst animal teeth were found among the grave goods, too. While grave 7 contained
the remains of a necklace made of dog teeth (HnselKalicz 1986, 14), in grave 15 a canine tooth of
boar was found together with other remains of pig and disarranged human bones (HnselKalicz 1986,
18). Grave 87 is significant because it is explicitly mentioned as special burial holding the body of a senile
man who was put into the pit head first. There were nearly no grave goods apart from two tusks of a boar,
one at each of the temples (HnselKalicz 1986, 38). While this is seen as remaining braid of a cap or
headband by the excavators and the deceased interpreted as shaman, one could also stress the apotropaic
nature of animal tusks and their use as amulets (Pauli 1975, 129; Primas 1977, 101). However, it is necessary to determine that burial offerings of perforated tusks may reflect an older, widely spread tradition
of such elements in common dress (Schalk 1992, 72f.) and therefore are hard to differentiate from what
might have served as protective charm.22 This is the general dilemma in addressing grave goods with amulet character; it needs careful and close observance to distinguish elements of attire (worn on the body)
and an explicit addition to the grave.
Returning to grave 66 in Mezcst we have another closer look at its grave furnishings. As stated
above, the headdress of the young woman buried there was removed when the grave was reopened again
at a later date while a necklace (Fig.2/15) was left untouched. The deceased also had a second necklace of
four reverted heart-shaped pendants (Fig. 2/1619) in her hand (HnselKalicz 1986, 31). Considering
the other jewellery around her neck and the fact that pendants and necklaces apparently are not part of
the common equipment in other graves proof of corresponding jewellery is only evident from two more
graves: remains of similar pendants from the secondarily opened grave 47 (Fig.2/614) and one more
(Fig. 2/5) from the badly preserved child burial in grave 51 (HnselKalicz 1986, 2729) underlines the outstanding character of these finds within graves. From GelejBeltelek three related pieces are
reported (Fig.2/13), all coming from just one burial, grave 68 (Kemenczei 1979, 39). They might have
been part of a necklet originally, together with four spirals and seven other beads found there as well. The
larger of these pendants is crescent-shaped, the other two are smaller and of reverted heart-shape. Another
20. Pauli (1975, 185190) also noted, that an increase of amulets in graves can be connected to periods of social change, which
also go along with an increase in unusual burial practices.
21. For a more detailed discussion concerning objects with amulet character cf. HansmannKriss-Rettenbeck 1966.
22. While not present in the examples examined here, objects made of antler are known from burial contexts of the Otomani
Fzesabony complex as well. Therefore it should not be neglected to note their outstanding character among finds with an
emphasized apotropaic meaning (Pauli 1975, 172).

Menace from the Afterlife? | 149

crescent-shaped example (Fig. 2/4), but considerably larger, is known from TiszafredMajoroshalom
(Kovcs 1984, 242).
Pendants of this type are common in the Bronze Age of the Carpathian Basin and are known
in several variants and sub types (Hnsel 1968, 115118). Their character as part of female dress was
pointed out with reference to their appearance and association in hoards and grave finds (Bna 1975,
284f.) and depictions on anthropomorphic clay idols (e.g. Hjek 1957, 323f., Abb. 5; Ruttkay 1983,
1214). The amulet character of these pendants was also suggested (Mozsolics 1988, 33, also mentioning
their association with animal teeth), above all because of the connection to other types of finds interpreted
in means of more refined, spiritual and cultic realms like the aforementioned clay idols and depositions
(Ruttkay 1983, 1, 9 and 14). Emerging in the Early Bronze Age and becoming more frequent in the
Middle Bronze Age (Hnsel 1968, 145; Furmanek 1980, 1623; Mozsolics 1988, 33) they show a long
lasting tradition (Bna 1975, 285f.).

Fig.2. Examples of heart-shaped and crescent-shaped pendants. 13. GelejBeltelek, grave 68 (after Kemenczei
1979, Taf.IX/810); 4. TiszafredMajoroshalom, grave D345 (after Kovcs 1984, Taf.LXIX/13); 5. Mezcst,
grave 51 (after HnselKalicz 1986, Taf.8/51c); 614. Mezcst, grave 47 (after HnselKalicz 1986,
Taf.8/47m, n, t); 1519. Mezcst, grave 66 (after HnselKalicz 1986, Taf.9/66 k and h). No scale.

There is a variety of classification and nomenclature in the archaeological literature concerning

the different forms of these types of pendants and their various subtypes. Below are outlined only those
two general forms appearing in the material discussed:
1. The open heart-shaped examples are formed by two arms bending downwards. Their backside
is flat, the front often convex. There are several subtypes differing in how far both arms are mutually
curved, nearly or totally touching each other and therefore closing the heart. Another typological criterion would be the shaping of a central spine and its connection to the arms (e.g. Hnsel 1968, 115118;
Furmanek 1980, 15f.)
2. The crescent-shaped forms appear like a sickle downwards opened, showing a perforated tong
at the upper end and an extension (often larger and anchor-shaped, sometimes not more than a small
tip) pointing down from the centre of the crescent. Variants are mostly differing in decoration only (e.g.
Hnsel 1968, 121f.; Furmanek 1980, 16f.).
The three specimens from Gelej belong to the earlier examples, especially the large crescentshaped piece with its middle decoration having parallels in finds of the Koszider Horizon (Mozsolics
1967, 87f., Schumacher-Matthus 1985, 36). The appropriate items from the Mezcst burials are

150 | Jens Notroff

corresponding to the later forms according to

Hnsel the chronological unsusceptible variants 1 and 2 (Hnsel 1968, 115) and variant 7
(Hnsel 1968, 118) showing the long lifetime
of this group and their unbroken tradition especially in the sphere of the OtomaniFzesabony
complex. The crescent-shaped example from
TiszafredMajoroshalom shows a barely developed decorative tip in the middle a basic type
characteristic for the younger phase.
Despite this range of typological and
chronological characteristics all those types
are beyond question closely related, most
likely representing the same motif. They can
be regarded as anthropomorphic depictions
as J. Blischke (2000, 34f.) demonstrated
Fig.3. The Bronze sheet pendant from Kisapostag, grave 2 convincingly on the basis of a closely related
(1) visualizes the anthropomorphic nature of heart shaped
pendant (made of sheet bronze) from a burial
pendants (2) as well as parallels to postures of the Crna idols
at Kisapostag (Mozsolics 1942, Taf. I/86).
(3). (No scale; after Blischke 2000, Abb.5).
J. Blischke was not only able to determine
that they indeed depict a human with arms brought together above the abdomen (Fig. 3), he also
pointed out a striking resemblance with postures and the top of the clay idols from Crna in southern
Romania and the arm position in inhumation burials of the Middle Bronze Age Carpathian region,
where it seems to be a common cultic gesture.
The connection to the Crna type idols has to be emphasized particularly. Figurines like these
are known from a broad range of contexts. Reported finds include settlements and cemeteries alike.23 In
the cemetery of Crna these clay figurines are almost exclusively found in a number of children burials
(Hachmann 1968, 369).24 It was suggested to read them as marker of individuals with a higher social rank
(Reich 2002, 162) or even as guardian divinities (Schumacher-Matthus 1985, 8). If this indicates a
similar role and function as stated for the pendants, and if these also should be understood as representation of an idealized character in the meaning of a deity alluding to special status and rank, is open to question. A large number of these figurines apparently wearing the same pendants we find with the deceased
in their graves and offered in depositions intensify the importance attached to them.
Bearing in mind the already discussed phenomenon of secondary grave openings and their role
in the sepulchral rite, one can only presume why some of these objects with amulet character were left
in otherwise emptied graves while another large number of similar items apparently were removed (and
transferred into hoards?). It is unlikely that these few pieces were disesteemed or of lower value. More
likely they are marking a somehow special person when staying in the grave, indicating the known and
accepted apotropaic role of these symbols encouraging their interpretation as amulet.25
One more example from Mezcst confronts us with a shackled female individual in grave 81,
buried in a rather flat pit. The heavily smashed skull hints at an injury inflicted on purpose (Hnsel
Kalicz 1986, 46). Was tried here to get rid of an unpopular, disliked woman as B. Hnsel and N. Kalicz
suggest? Assuming that the trauma was not only inflicted pre-mortal but maybe even lethal, this could be
considered a bad death and therefore decisive for the special treatment (altering the violent act from a
part of this treatment to its very reason). The concept of bad death is known from ethnological field study.
It describes the ill-timed death as well as one in an unusual way, i.e. death by violence (warriors, victims
23. That figurine finds within settlements do not necessarily exclude a cultic interpretation is demonstrated by O. Dietrich with
his contribution to this volume.
24. This adds to L. Paulis (1975, 152) opinion, that the gifting of amulets is dependent on the age of a person and the time of
its death (while he stated a dominance of amulets especially in childrens burials and those of young adults for the Iron Age
examples he examined, the situation seems to be reversed here, replacing the stylized apotropaic symbol by a more concrete
25. Even J. W. Neugebauer, who argues for a very aggressive and comprehensive grave robbery in Gemeinlebarn, mentions bronze
objects which were left in the looted tombs because of a certain symbolic value; although he prefers an interpretation in means
of insignia or regalia (Neugebauer 1991, 126).

Menace from the Afterlife? | 151

of murder and manslaughter as well as executed individuals), death by accident, suicides, death by disease
and death in childbed (Sell 1955, 3).26
There is another example of at first stance unusual treatment experienced by the young women
in grave 19b at Mezcst, who was thrown into the grave pit head first (HnselKalicz 1986, 48). As
peculiar as this appears, the woman was treated commonly in the further process of the ritual. A later
opening of graves together with the removal of a large number of grave goods was discussed in detail and
shown above to be part of a complex burial rite. The individual in grave 19b was not an exception anymore
her originally wealthy burial equipment (of which only a piece of sheet gold remained) was taken out
at a later time (HnselKalicz 1986, 48). While the original entombment was varied, the following rite
was apparently fulfilled. The millstone found in this burial among the few remaining grave goods might
be seen in context with working activity or even as symbolic gift. M. Primas (1977, 103), for instance,
pointed out the underestimated role of stones (although she was referring to unworked stones and pebbles) in the sense of amulets.
The aim of this paper was to discuss the meaning of deviant burials to contribute to our understanding of prehistoric burial rite and concepts of the afterlife. Especially an omnipresent model explaining so called special burials with fearing and banishing the dead, Totenangst and Totenbann, served as
starting ground of the thoughts presented above. Consulting only the conspicuous aberrant feature means
to assume with tacit understanding that the archaeological record depicts a general rule of rather simplified behaviour. That there are many reasons for possible infringements of the norm, that sometimes even
the norm needs to be questioned, was demonstrated with a number of examples and with the help of
ethnographic analogies. It could hardly be negated, that there are indeed sometimes burials which stand
out by their unique and most remarkable way of how the deceased were treated.
The role of amulets in burial ritual was also analyzed in the course of this study. Within several
graves, even those emptied some time after the burial, a number of objects were found which could be
connected to an amulet nature. Especially the heart- and crescent-shaped pendants, a find group rather
common and widely spread in the Early and Middle Bronze Age attracted our attention. Recognizing
them as stylized anthropomorphic depictions and linking them to contemporary idols and figurines
emphasized their supposed significance in cultic activity, particularly their apotropaic role. The frequent
appearance of these pendants in hoards does not only underline this cultic interpretation (recognizing
at least some of these hoards as offerings through which the objects are entrusted to a numinous sphere
as well) but also draws another close line between burials and depositions and the related concepts of an
other world behind both.
That these beliefs might also contain a fear of returning dangerous dead is not unimaginable,
judging by the countless examples from historical and ethnographical sources this is even more likely. It
is not enough to state the obvious deviation, since the reasons can be numerous. Closer examination is
necessary where the burial rite seems to make an exception. To evaluate how special a burial really is, the
complexity of the rite itself must be understood. Sometimes the smaller details among grave furnishing
and equipment indicate many more commonalities than the obvious aberration of what is considered the
norm would make one believe.
Aspck 2008
Bader 1998

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Bader, T., Bemerkungen zur Bronzezeit im Karpatenbecken. Otomani/Fzesabony-Komplex, JahrMV, 80, 43108.

26. That in the end such a sudden and unexpected death might be connected with malevolent and vengeful dead cannot be
excluded (Sell 1955, 9) and may also lead to a special treatment of the deceased in terms of protective measures (Sell 1955,
191199, 225).

152 | Jens Notroff

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List of figures
Fig.1. Location of the OtomaniFzesabony cemeteries mentioned in the text: 1. GelejBeltelek, and Gelej
Kanlisdl, 2. Herndkak, 3. Pusztasziksz, 4. Streda nad Bodrogom, 5. TarnamraUszoda, 6. Tiszafred
Majoroshalom and TiszarvnyTemetdomb, 7. Mezcst. (Base map:
Fig.2. Examples of heart-shaped and crescent-shaped pendants. 13. GelejBeltelek, grave 68 (after Kemenczei
1979, Taf.IX/810); 4. TiszafredMajoroshalom, grave D345 (after Kovcs 1984, Taf.LXIX/13); 5. Mezcst,
grave 51 (after HnselKalicz 1986, Taf.8/51c); 614. Mezcst, grave 47 (after HnselKalicz 1986,
Taf.8/47m, n, t); 1519. Mezcst, grave 66 (after HnselKalicz 1986, Taf.9/66 k and h). No scale.
Fig.3. The Bronze sheet pendant from Kisapostag, grave 2 (1) visualizes the anthropomorphic nature of heart shaped
pendants (2) as well as parallels to postures of the Crna idols (3). (No scale; after Blischke 2000, Abb.5).


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Zbornk SNM

Patrimonium Apulense, Alba Iulia

Pamtky Archeologick, Praha
Prhistorische Archologie in Sdosteuropa, Berlin, Kiel, Mnchen
Prhistorische Bronzefunde, Mnchen, Stuttgart
Peuce, Studii i cercetri de istorie i arheologie, Institutul de Cercetari Eco-Muzeale
Tulcea, Institutul de Istorie si Arheologie, Tulcea
Prace i Materiay Antropologiczno-Archeologiczne i Etnograficzne, Krakw
Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, London
Pravk N, Masarykova univerzita Brno
Preistoria Alpina, Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali
Prilozi Instituta za arheologiju iz Zagreba
Przegld Archeologiczny, Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii Polskiej Akademii Nauk
Praehistorische Zeitschrift, Berlin
Regensburger Beitrge zur Prhistorischen Archologie
Rgszeti Fzetek, Budapest
Revista Bistriei, Complexul Judeean Muzeal Bistria-Nsud
Revista Muzeelor, Bucureti
Rmisch-Germanische Forschungen, Mainz, Berlin
Rgszeti Kutatsok Magyarorszgon
Rocznik Biaostocki
Saarbrcker Beitrge zur Altertumskunde, Bonn
Sargeia, Buletinul Muzeului Judeului Hunedoara, Acta Musei Devensis, Deva
Savaria, A Vas Megyei Mzeumok rtestje, Szombathely
Studii i Cercetri de Istorie Veche (i Arheologie 1974), Bucureti
Saalburg Jahrbuch, Berlin
Southwestern Journal of Anthropology
Slovensk Archeolgia, Bratislava
Spelologisches Jahrbuch, Wien
lskie Sprawozdania Archeologiczne, Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocawskiego
Schriften der Sektion fr Ur- und Frhgeschichte, Berlin
Starinar, Arheoloki institute, Beograd
Studii i Comunicri Satu Mare
Studii i Comunicri, Muzeul Brukenthal, Sibiu
Studia Antiqua et Archaeologica, Iai
Studie Archeologickho stavu eskoslovensk Akademie vd vBrn, Praha
tudijn zvesti, Archeologickho stavu Slovenskej Akadmie Vied, Nitra
Symposia Thracologica, Institutul Romn de Tracologie, Bucureti
Thraco-Dacica, Institutul de Tracologie, Bucureti
Tibiscus, Muzeul Banatului, Timioara
Tisicum, A Jsz-Nagykun-Szolnok Megyei Mzeumok vknyve, Szolnok
Tbinger Schriften zur Ur- und Frhgeschichtlichen Archologie, Mnster
Universittsforschungen zur prhistorischen Archologie, Bonn
Varia Archaeologica Hungarica, Budapest
Vjesnik Arheolokog muzeja u Zagrebu
Vjesnik Hrvatskog arheolokog drutva, Zagreb
A Veszprm Megyei Mzeumok Kzlemnyei
Wiadomoci Archeologiczne, Pastwowe Muzeum Archeologiczne, Warsaw
World Archaeology, Oxford, Oxbow
Wosinsky Mr Mzeum vknyve, Szekszrd
Wiener Prhistorische Zeitschrift, Wien
Zalai Mzeum, Kzlemnyek Zala megye mzeumaibl, Zalaegerszeg
Zbornik radova muzeja rudarstva i metalurgije u Boru
Zbornk Slovenskho Nrodnho Mzea, Bratislava
Zeitschrift fr Archologie des Mittelalters, Bonn